The Power of Structure

•August 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In the spirit of meditating on cards I don’t enjoy much, here’s the coup de grace for my feminist self:

I don’t appreciate a rigid patriarch, but I do appreciate the deeper symbolism behind the Emperor. Rachel Pollack and Mary K. Greer have encouraged me to re-conceptualize this card as an imperfect or at the very least, culturally loaded image for abstract ideas like structure, form, and power.

The Emperor is a card that corresponds with my birthday, and Mary K. Greer suggests all the nicest things about this card that I want to explore. This stiff figure is watchful and perceptive, sharp as a tack and hawk-like with the speed and tenacity in observing the world. He reminds us to expose the foundations or beginnings of ideas and concepts, and trace their evolution with special attention to the power they claim and manipulate. It’s important to understand how ideas and beliefs have relationships with the people involved, other ideas/beliefs, and the structures of human perception that dictate their application.

This card is all about understanding the creative power the Empress springs forth, and applying the judgment necessary when your beliefs interact with society and tradition (The Hierophant). Our own personal power can easily spin out of control, or become easily manipulated by others, without the self-reflection and observation this card commands. The Emporer is a pivotal step between creation and application; one must understand and consider the power in their hands before it’s dispersed again, flowing from the hands with a cool control that can empower the individual in question to be effective and autonomous. The self-directed life, from the self-possessed being, is the beautiful outcome of embracing this card.

I’ve recently discovered this card is the best symbol for the driving force behind my dietary choices. I’ve been vegan for almost 9 months, and it’s reaped many rewards for me in health, a clear conscience when it comes to animals traditionally raised for food, and my own impact on my environment. I think the best lesson I’ve learned, though, it to understand my own power as an individual who has the power to craft her own principles with careful thought, and implement them in her own life with passion, direction, and strength. I am an engineer of standards that are meaningful and powerful to me; I see this as a positive and awesome aspect of my own personal development.

Being a die-hard feminist, my own cultural baggage had previously prevented me from seeing this card own its own terms. The anarchist in me also shied away from conversations of structure and hierarchy, although Peggy Kornegger gave me a healthful dose of critical talk to get past that block. I am grateful for moments of clarity and insight that make the whole 78 cards relevant to my life, not just the cherry picked ones from my own prejudice.

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The Singularity

•July 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is me when I think about my personal human condition:

In awe, confronted with the profound beauty of the life I have been thrown into. I love tarot and its ability to encompass a million words in one image, in one card. This is the beginning of the Fool’s journey, going from “I Am” to “What Is?” Singularity and oneness with the simpleness of the question.

My inner self is often so run over by the power of my mind that I start to only exist in the thinking realm, and soon forget there is existence beyond concepts or words. The typical paths we are encouraged to travel do not support much reflection or silence. I know this now from a new perspective, as my own regulated identity comes out and forcefully tries to get my friends to conform as strongly as I was socialized myself. Recent talks have shown me that painful truth, but have left me feeling a little blocked, unable to put the brakes on my constant thinking, analyzing self. Unlearning and undoing is an exhausting task, which is probably why I turn to tarot during times like these. It’s one of the few things I can do where I can sit there and think about all of the possible interpretations of the card and analyze to my heart’s content, or simply turn off and tune into the image.

Rachel Pollack turned me on to the idea of “gate cards”, which in her own words

open a path from the ordinary world to the inner level of archetypal experiences…[with]a myth-like Strangeness which no allegorical interpretation can completely penetrate

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom

Now that I can get behind. Get lost in the arch in this card. Where does it take you?

Decisions, decisions

•June 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I put the tarot cards down for a couple of weeks, what with family drama, work, and the heat, so it was after I did a reading for a friend today that I was inspired to write about a card that didn’t even come up in the spread (but I was motivated just the same.

Here are The Lovers. Card 6 of the Major Arcana, and one most people tend to enjoy cropping up in their readings.

Phallic imagery aside for a moment, we have the typical Adam/Eve scene, with the serpent over Eve’s shoulder on the left with the tree of forbidden fruit, and a fire-y tree behind Adam on the right. The angel, Raphael, expresses the airy qualities of Gemini and reiterates a message: in making choices, sometimes you have to surrender to a higher power (be it fate, god(dess), what have you). Notice how Adam is looking to Eve, who looks directly at the angel and stands with the Tree of Knowledge. There’s no way to heaven without embracing the feminine in this card.

People love to hear that they’re going to encounter their soulmate soon, their one true love. I can understand the appeal, but I wonder if this card doesn’t expose a bit of insecurity that lies underneath that desire; being alone is truly terrifying. The point of love is to be able to make the choice to love and be with someone, to consider best interests and healthy boundaries and needs above the dogged instinct to stick like glue to whatever’ll have you. There is no such thing as love without choice, just blind devotion. It’s nice to say you know you have the choice to leave someone, but for me at least, love happens when staying together and being alone are equally viable, and you choose the former.

I think this card for me reminds me to cultivate the self, to become more conscious of paths before us and how our choices, chance, and the actions of others modify our lives into a beautifully present reality. Embracing joy and the ugly sublime is bliss.

***

As a side note, I’ll be more actively seeking tarot certification once I get back from my Canada trip. Sitting with the cards a few days will let me know if this is indeed a positive direction to move. After that, who knows? I’ll probably spend more time marketing and the business-Capricorn side of me-stuff, reach out to a few more spots around town to see if they’re cool with me reading for a cut, and avoiding the suggestions that I should read tarot out of my home. Thanks but no thanks.

The Devil in Me

•May 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There’s no short of anxiety when this card shows up in a reading. Most people I read for are either Christian, formerly Christian, or feel the impact of Abrahamic religions in their lives, so the Devil strikes a chord of fear and confusion. It’s not Satan represented here, but Pan or Dionysis, the horned gods of nature, wildness. The ruling sign here is Capricorn, my Sun sign, and I’ve always been a little bitter that I have such an ugly card associated with my birthday.

Nonetheless, the Devil can teach us important lessons when reflecting on our lives and relationships.If we are everything and no-thing, we release boundaries and labels and preconceived value judgments on our existence. We are wild and amorphous and free, but sometimes confused or blinded by temptation that keeps us from understanding true reality. See the chains around the necks of Adam and Eve in the above picture? They aren’t tight over their necks, and can be lifted off if focus were redirected to the self. One of my favorite Tarot thinkers, Rachel Pollack, describes the Devil as the comfort of the physical body and manifestation, that which holds us in naive comfort before we are ready to confront our own light and joy.

The Devil describes illusion, which I think is the first step toward true vision. Having the objective distance to name and describe illusion puts it in its place. The Devil can also mean obsession, addiction, and temptation, but can more simply mean a roadblock to unlocking your true potential. The Devil may expose some evil and painful things within us, but ignorance of those things won’t get anyone anywhere. Then you’ll need the next card, the Tower, to rock your foundations and produce chaos to really get you to wake up and change.

The Devil is opportunity, it is a mirror, it is your first wake-up call. Heed it.

Let’s Get Ethical

•May 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m on my way to become  a Certified Professional Tarot Reader through the Tarot Certification Board of America, and one of the requirements is to compose a Code of Ethics. Here they are in all their moral glory:

1. Consent is vital to all relationships, especially those that deal with intimate information and vulnerability. Querents may initiate or terminate a reading at any time for any reason.

2. All querents will be treated with respect and receive my full attention during a reading.

3. Confidentiality is necessary to maintain trust and faith in any reader. Only when a querent indicates they might harm themselves or others, or when the law requires, will I divulge the contents of a reading to anyone. If others in your life want to inquire about readings, it’s up to you to tell them.

4. Tarot readings should empower and give perspective to clients, rather than paralyze or harm them. It is irresponsible to shoulder the karmic burden of predicting the future or foretelling death and illness.

5. Readings will only be given to parties who consent to them. Young children, third parties, and intoxicated querents cannot consent to readings and will not receive them.

6. I cannot and will not give medical, legal, psychological, or financial advice. Querents with these needs will be referred to licensed professionals.

7. The payment for a reading will always be decided and settled in advance of a reading. No additional fees will be incurred during a reading.

8. I am committed to furthering my professional education as a tarot reader in order to best serve the art itself and my clients.

And because a post doesn’t look right without a picture, let’s all marvel at how Mary K. Greer is a BAMF:

Reclaiming Confusion

•April 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As part of my process of pursuing certification as a professional tarot reader (and just because I feel like I have a lot to say), I’ve decided to go through each of the Major Arcana and continue the meditations I’ve already started on cards (see my previous posts on The Tower and Death, as well as my discussion of passivity in the Osho Zen Tarot and Triple Goddess Oracle). I’m not going in any logical order, just responding to the intuitive draw I have to certain cards at the moment.

Today I want to talk about a card whose traditional interpretation has never made sense to me, and quite frankly, pisses me off.

This is The Moon, number 18, from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. I’ve read several Tarot interpretations and meditations on this card that just doesn’t satisfy me, and at times, I feel, don’t do this wonderful card justice. Often, readers will tell you that the moon symbolizes confusion, cosmic or karmic displeasure, and fear of the natural instinct or mind.

From my own location, I can understand why things look different in the moonlight. The sun casts direct light on our world and reveals reality in a direct and safe manner. Moonlight obscures and reflects, perhaps distorts our world image and view. The moon is a stark confrontation of vulnerability, and reminds us that control through our senses and comfortable interpretations of the world is not possible, nor realistic. This is not an easy perspective to experience, but a fully necessary one for exploration of intuition and psyche. The Moon is looking down at the animals and ocean scene looking displeased to some, but to me, looks resolved and in tune with the cycle of feelings through the ego, internally focused.

The dog and wolf (or coyote) are often said to symbolize our instincts or “barbaric” side, but I feel more comfortable describing the dog as our domesticated and socialized selves that do not question or evaluate our socialization process, and then the wolf as the unbridled instinct and passion toward living life. The crustacean between them makes us consider the third option we didn’t think was possible, or the below-the-surface intuition we barely know anything about, like our own ocean and its inhabitants. We are the dogs that walk straight from our house to our car to our next destination at night without a second thought, and we are also the wolves who take night prowls and stare at the moon with a hypnotic admiration. We are the crustaceans that see the night as day full of life and opportunity and growth.

The two stone pillars are often described as tombstones, but when I first got the RWS deck I just assumed they were entrance pillars of some kind, a man-made construct to mark the beginning of the journey into wilderness and wide open spaces. You can see the yellow path leading from the prairie to the mountains through those giant stone starting points.

The confusion that most people feel when looking at or interpreting this card comes from a variety of places. Confusion is a universal experience, and like irony, often happens when reality does not meet our expectations. An inability to process data correctly or receiving mixed messages also produce confusion, but remind us that relying on only one form of communication or thought cannot reveal the entire picture or give us clarity.

Some people might be confused by the relationship between the moon and our oceans (which we also know precious little about), or the menstrual cycles of women. The moon does change (think Romeo and Juliet: ” do not swear by the inconstant moon!”) but its cycles are familiar once you’ve lived a year on this Earth and the crescent or full moon is nothing you’ve never seen before. Perhaps it just takes the time and true effort of really seeing this divine orb in its place and on its own terms to get over the anxiety that confusion can cause.

From the Tarot of Trees deck by Dana Driscoll. Speaking of dreamy decks, I’m all excited about getting my Dreaming in Color Luman Deck today.

How’s that for a card? I can’t wait to get into this imagery. I’ll probably go through this deck and the osho zen one at the same time, after I finish the Major Arcana. Next card will probably be the Devil. Stay tuned 🙂

A New Perspective on Catastrophe

•April 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There are a few Tarot cards that people don’t like to get in a reading, or confuse readers. These cards get a bad rap, and a lot of tarot book authors and theorists try to reclaim or redefine them so a querent doesn’t have a freak out during a reading, or to just interpret a card beyond its literal assumption. Although I think that case is made for cards like Death and the 10 of Swords, I’ve yet to come across a positive or empowering description of the Tower:

This is the Rider-Waite-Smith version of the Tower, and by all accounts it looks pretty grim. Lightning has struck a high tower built upon a rock, a fire has started, the crown is knocked off the top, and probably most frightening, people are falling to their deaths while on fire. I rarely draw this card for others or myself, and perhaps that’s because I’ve had trouble interpreting it until recently.

To reclaim what the Tower means for us in daily life, we must first attempt to look at these events objectively. This card could symbolize an event in your life that shook your foundations, that moved the ground beneath your feet you didn’t know existed. Every arbitrary decision, every banal event or statement, every choice you made up until now, combined with choices of others and chance, create the moment directly before transformation. That event makes what was once trivial become pivotal, for without that piece of the puzzle, the outcome could have been indefinably different. The ego grows, receives an impact, and then dies with a new one already in place. We shed the old skin, and while we might be nostalgic about our past selves (tumbling toward the ground away from us at an impossible pace), the circle of time moves toward the experience we have already encountered, have already created. Foundations of power are rocked internally (symbolized by the crown) and we manifest revolution within ourselves on a frequent basis.  The time or event might be dark, but it is powerful and necessary for growth.

With this new vision, we get a card that looks a lot more personal and meaningful:

The fires have sparked the wheels turning along the central line of the body (see each of the hearths within the chakras?) and we become powerful conductors of energy, able to create and destroy this image of ourselves and motivate movement through space and time. It’s only with reflection and listening (in lotus, perhaps) that we can channel that force constructively, and remain detached from the fear that can paralyze us.